These Three Books Walk Into a Banana Box

I’m still working on this one. “This record may contain certain words which may be offensive to parents of children under 16”. I’ve had records come through with warning labels, sure: many of my donors are of that generation. But what does that one MEAN, really? If you have children under 16, don’t listen in while your kids have this record on? You’re okay to buy this record if your kids are old enough? It’s one of those sentences which means less and less the more you look at it.

Anyhoo, you may infer from this that I have been pricing records again. You may also guess (I won’t make you infer twice in the same column) that this collection is rather different from the collection which came to us from the convent. You would be correct in both cases. Sorry, no prizes; budget won’t cover that.

I did not whimper (much) when I was told to expect 700 records. First, 700 records take up surprisingly little space (they make up for that in weight.) Second, nobody really COUNTS records. They get bored after the first thirty, and then estimate what they have. Yes, yes, the convent sent me a complete count of all the albums I got from them. But somebody may have drawn that as a penance.

But, sure enough, here came 700 records, fewer than 100 of which were music. THIS is wildly unusual. Most of the records I get are music: some people concentrate on the classics, some spent their youth buying rock, and other people go for something nice to dance to. (Remember the polka collection last year? I hope so; we got another one this year.) But this man collected the spoken word on vinyl: about half of it comedy, about half of it old radio shows.

The Comedy/Spoken Word section of our record department in July is one of our best-loved areas: it nearly sells out every year, and WOULD sell out if it weren’t for all those foreign language discs. I marvel, sometimes, to think of all those copies of The First Family going off with our shoppers. There are other multiples: Bob Newhart’s first album (Sometimes the second, but never any of the others), a smattering of Stan Freberg, some Shelley Berman, a clump of Cosbys, Steve Martin’s second album (I don’t KNOW why.).

But look in these boxes! Peter Sellers, Art Buchwald, Milt Kamen, Jean Shepherd, Kenneth Williams, Wayne & Shuster, Henry Gibson…he’s got a history of recorded comedy of the 50s and 60s here. I didn’t even know Lenny Bruce made a 7-inch record. (No, it wasn’t Lenny who got the strange warning label quoted above. Nope, not Richard Pryor. Not Steve. Not…maybe I’ll award a 45 rpm adapter to the first correct guess, or recollection.)

It’s the same with the Old-Time Radio shows. Lots of people give me The Shadow, The War of the Worlds, and Dick Tracy. But here we have Jack Armstrong, All American Boy, Jungle Jim, Hop Harrigan, Sad Sack, Can You Top This…I’m not halfway through the boxes yet.

What I’m saying is that if you still have a record player (I almost said “stereo”, but a lot of this is mono; go ask your grandmother.) and are interested in comedy and spoken word recordings, you may wish to mark the end of July on your calendar. Try not to get stampeded by the polka buyers.

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